How to Repair Vintage Ceramics
Vintage, antique or anything you’d like to call it. If it’s old and beautiful it probably means it’s vintage. A nice assortment of vintage ceramics, mostly German-made but sometimes an odd item from another country might sneak in too. All items are handpicked by myself.
I make my living buying and selling vintage ceramics and other decorative items. In my shop, you’ll find many different kinds of vintage ceramic pieces. Some are antique collector’s items. Some have been used as kitchenware for hundreds of years. One-piece, in particular, I enjoy is a cast iron tub that was once used as a sink for the family bathroom.
It has a porcelain top with porcelain sides and a porcelain back that run the full length of the tub. The porcelain sides have been painted and glazed. The porcelain back glaze is a unique creamy white colour. The bottom of the tub is smooth and rounded and the sides are tapered to a point so they fit perfectly onto the bathtub surface.
This is just one example of the type of vintage ceramic I repair. My shop is filled with them. I do a lot of repairing, cleaning and remodelling. Many of my early designs were based on items found in salvage yards and thrift stores. I’ve even found vintage porcelain that was once part of the Hoover Dam.
Cleaning and Repairing Ceramics
That was in the early days when all things salvage were hauled off and sold on the cheap. Cleaning vintage ceramics involves knowing how to identify problems and how to fix them. Sometimes glaze surfaces show signs of deterioration. The surface may be too smooth or rough. It’s easy to fix minor imperfections but if the glaze is cracked or chipped then I can’t work on it because it won’t be salvageable.
I know how to repair vintage ceramics. I have many patterns and designs in my book that have been slightly modified from when I first started. They’re not exact but I’m sure if you’re looking for how to clean vintage ceramic, you’ll be able to get close. Many of my patterns were adapted from antique reproduction pieces.
When I talk about how to repair vintage ceramics I want people to understand the significance of ceramics and how their lives were different from ours. We’re talking about the creation of home. The kiln was a big part of our lives. Our pots and pans would endure the firing cycle hundreds of times. Porcelain didn’t last that long and when it did collapse it was unsightly. When my mother made pottery, it was a big deal because it was the largest thing she made.
Cleaning a vintage ceramic can be tough if you don’t know how to repair vintage ceramics. I learned how to do it by trial and error. I had plenty of “bad” experiences so I wanted to make sure I fixed the ones that weren’t too bad. I finally realized that it would take a lot of trial and error to figure out how to clean vintage ceramics.
Cleaning Tougher Items
The best advice for cleaning ceramics is to use water. Water will evaporate any oil, dirt or grease and then it would just be a matter of wiping it off with a dry cloth. I learned that it was necessary to wipe all the surfaces with a dry cloth. I’d use one of those heavy-duty office type clothes but a normal home cloth should work just fine. You need to pay attention to the surfaces you’re working on because you don’t want to disturb the glaze.
The best advice for cleaning a vintage ceramic I’ve received was to avoid using detergents. All you want to do is just dip a clean, damp cloth into the warm soapy water and wipe down the surface. Use plenty of water. If the dirt gets dried on the surface by the end of the drying period then you can just touch it up with another damp cloth. I didn’t have any success with detergents at all when I tried how to repair vintage ceramic kitchenware.
Once you get the cloth wet and start working on the surface, you’ll notice there’s no such thing as too much water! Use a sponge and start cleaning, being careful to not let the cleaner come into contact with any wooden surfaces. I also noticed that some cleaners had a strange odour to them so maybe they shouldn’t be used around an open flame or something similar. Be sure to test the cleaners out before you ever buy them and read the label carefully. I bought a bottle of cleaning powder after my experience cleaning vintage ceramics.
The best advice I got on how to repair vintage ceramics came from a close friend of mine who restored porcelain kitchen cabinets for his own family. He told me that there are chemicals in detergents that can damage the glaze and cause problems to the finish. I recommend that you seek out a professional cleaning service to get your pieces looking like new again. I also learned that you should never use straight bleach on any wood surfaces (or even on anything metal as you could discolour it). However, if you have an old-time porcelain sink, there may be no need to worry about that anyway.